Looking for new portrait photography inspiration on Instagram? Here are 37 accounts that consistently post interesting portrait photographs. They’re listed in no particular order, though Richard Avedon and Irving Penn go first because they’re the best… obviously! To follow the ones you like, just click the ‘Follow’ button at the top of each profile. If you have a good suggestion for this list, let us know. If I like what I see, I’ll add it!
Do I really need to explain this one? Richard Avedon may be the greatest portrait photographer in history. His portraits of artists, celebrities, and political leaders serve as a visual diary of the second half of the 20th century. Spend a day or two digging through Avedon’s work and you’ll find that his influence is as strong today as it was 40 years ago.
Do I really need to explain this one too? Like Richard Avedon, Irving Penn may be the greatest portrait photographer in history. Mr. Penn’s innovative portraits were technically flawless but also perfectly elegant. Most photographers can achieve neither, let alone both…
Herb Ritts was the King of California cool. He’s arguably the best celebrity portrait photographer of the 1980’s and 1990’s, with his clean, classical lines and perfect black and white tones. And yes, that means I think he was better than Annie Leibovitz.
Along with Herb Ritts, Matthew Rolston brought back Hollywood glamour to celebrity portraiture. His innovative lighting and incredible compositions make him a must-follow. He’s a little late to the Instagram party… but worth following for all the fantastic work he posts.
Peter Lindbergh may mix portraiture and fashion better than any photographer in history. His portraits are simple and timeless, and his subjects always appear incredibly comfortable and engaged. I’d love to spy on his sessions to see how he does it.
No one photographs women like Sante D’Orazio. He rides the line between sexy and erotic like no one else, and his subjects show a remarkable level of comfort… no matter how undressed they may be.
German-born Martin Schoeller”s Instagram account is truly one of a kind. He’s shot countless A-level celebs… and you won’t find a single one here. Martin’s feed is comprise of portraits of homeless people from the Greater West Hollywood Food Coalition, all show in his signature close-up style.
Frank Ockenfels 3
If you’ve seen a movie or TV poster in the last few years, there’s a damn good chance Frank Ockenfels shot it. I love Frank’s ability to ride both sides of the fence. He creates the cleanest, slicking Hollywood ads… AND trippy, experimental personal work.
Marco Grob is a super-talented editorial and commercial photographer. He produces plenty of stunning black and white work, but his use of color really grabs me, like in this portrait of Daisy Ridley.
Dan is one of the all-time great editorial photographers, with his gentle-but-stylized lighting style. He’s also an incredible set builder and great with props, but he never lets them overpower his pictures.
Jonathan has been the reigning champion of hip hop photography for over 20 years. His feed is jam-packed with iconic photos from the likes of Jay-Z, Eminem, Snoop Dogg, Outkast, Big Daddy Kane, and so on, and so on.
Best known for his cutting-edge fashion photography, Craig also does plenty of portrait work for publications like Interview and Vanity Fair. If you’re fan of moody, black & white portraits, he’s a must-follow.
You’ve probably seen Mark’s pictures from Vanity Fair’s annual Oscar parties. But he’s been one of the industry’s top portrait shooters for over 30 year, with countless Rolling Stone, Elle, and Details covers under his belt.
Platon’s work is an exercise in visual simplicity. But what really sets his work apart is its quiet intensity, and sense of story-telling. When I see his subjects, I can’t help but wonder where their lives are going.
Peggy is one of the world’s most in-demand portrait photographers, with a clean spontaneous style. She’s a regular contributor to top magazines like GQ and Rolling Stone, and her commercial clients include Levi’s, NBC, and Neiman Marcus.
I started shooting when I was 30. But Steve McCurry may have been my first photography hero back when I was a kid. I still remember seeing Steve’s famous Afghan girl portrait on the cover of National Geographic as a kid, and being blown away.
While he’s primarily a commercial shooter, Joey is creating a staggering body of work with his documentary projects like Guerilla Fighters of Kurdistan. I can’t wait to see where he goes in the next 10 years.
I’ve been a fan of Nadav’s painterly, gentle portraits for years. His work feels otherwordly but familiar at the same time.
Walter Iooss Jr.
Walter’s the greatest sports photographer of all time. He was a phenomenal action shooter, and he’s perhaps an even better portrait photographer.
John Huet is a photographer’s photographer. He’s not well known among the general public, but serious photographers know that John is one of the biggest talents in the game. For decades, he’s been cranking out enigmatic, dramatic sports portraits. I first came across his work combing through 90’s photo annuals and he hasn’t slowed down one bit since then.
Jamel Shabazz has been documenting b boy and hip hop culture in New York City for over 30 years. Along with Diane Arbus, he’s one of the all-time great New York street portrait artists. His feed will give you a look at real, unfiltered New York street culture throughout the years… including before the city became a playground for the rich.
I first came across Christian’s work when researching hip hop photography. Christian’s range is incredible. In addition to celebrity editorial work, his feed includes documentary & street portraits, and intimate beauty studies.
Ben’s Instagram story feed is a master class in how running a fun, happy set means better pictures. If you feel like you need more energy, Ben’s upbeat work will inspire you to kick things up a notch.
UK dynamo Rankin makes me feel lazy. He’s not only photographed thousands of incredible portraits, but he’s cranked out 49 books and launched 5 magazines. It’s very rare that we such high quantity and quality go together!
Nigel’s a master of the close-up black and white portrait. His photos always remind me that in the end, portraits are ultimately about the face.
There’s a nice duality to Peter Yang’s work that I really enjoy. He shoots a lot of snappy, high-energy portraits, and then there are the quieter moments like this one of Jeff Bridges.
Downtown NYC resident Kareem Black is a top advertising/entertainment shooter, with clients like MTV, Comedy Central, VH1, GQ, Burger King, and my personal favorite, the WWE. There’s always a party in his pictures and I wish I was invited.
There’s a definite fashion flair to Pari’s portraiture. Pari’s a staff photographer for the New Yorker, and his clients include Rolling Stone, Nike, and Wired. If you need a big splash of color in your life, Pari’s one to follow.
Jesse feels like a bit of
a throwback with his stripped-down, black and white celebrity portraits. You get the impression he’s known his subjects for 50 years… though he may have met then 5 minutes ago. His work is proof that you don’t need glitz or glam to create beautiful portrait photography.
Along with Terence Donovan and Brian Duffy, David Bailey defined the swinging 60’s in the UK as “The Terrible Trio.” And at the tender age of 79, Bailey is still going strong. He’s still photographing models and celebrities in his intense, head-on black & white portrait style.
While I love Bailey, Terence Donovan may be my favorite of the Terrible Trio. He’s style is a bit softer and gentler, and perhaps a bit more contemplative.
I’d never actually seen much of Brian Duffy’s work before writing this article. But since I included Bailey and Donovan, I felt like I should at least check him out. And it was worth it! Duffy shot incredible portraits of musicians like David Bowie and Black Sabbath (featured above), in addition to a bevy of celebrities. Long live The Terrible Trio!
I got into Bettina Rheims’ work when strolling through the photo section at the Strand bookstore in New York City. She is one of the best photographers of women I’ve ever seen, and she’s one of the few artists (along with Sante D’Orazio and Ellen von Unwerth below) that effectively ride the border between sexy and too much. Just a warning: some of her pictures are very political and not safe for work.
Ellen von Unwerth
When you want more party in your pictures, call model-turned-photographer Ellen von Unwerth. I was tempted not to include her because her work seems more tilted towards fashion, but even so, even her fashion pictures feel like portraits. You don’t see the clothes, you see the subject’s expressions.
Vincent Peters may be the most talented black & white portrait photographer working today. His work, much of it still shot on film, combines Old Hollywood glamour with a modern sexy edge. Let me put it this way: if I had a girlfriend, I’d want to photograph her like Vincent Peters.
Dark, moody, sometimes wide angle, and always in monochrome… Jeanloup Sieff must have been watching a French New Wave film every time he looked through his lens. I’m not positive this is an official account… but the images are beautiful enough that I don’t care.
Last but not least… there’s us!
The @OnPortraits Instagram account regularly posts new portraits from top photographers, including some of the names on this list, like Kareem Black (his portrait of Aziz Ansari seen here) and Sante D’Orazio.
If you’d like your work to be featured, click here for details.
And oh yeah – we actually get permission and give artists their rightful credits!